Let’s imagine, for a moment, a spectacularly unlikely hypothetical situation: The Los Angeles Kings crater next season. Further, the Kings determine that between their older core, their salary cap problems and their poor performance both during and post-Darryl Sutter, the timing is right for a rebuild.
As a result, they determine to shop Drew Doughty at the 2017 trade deadline, believing that their long-term interests are best served by dealing the all-world defenceman while he’s still more than a year away from unrestricted free agency.
This is obviously an outlandish scenario in many ways. L.A. has a good chance of improving on last year’s results, and even if they fail that won’t guarantee a full rebuild as their next move, and even if they opt to rebuild that doesn’t necessarily lead to a Doughty trade. It’s a farfetched scenario intended only as a mental exercise as to one way an in-his-prime franchise defenceman could pop up on the trade market.
For this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, it doesn’t matter exactly who this hypothetical top defenceman is. Our question is this: If this general caliber of franchise defenceman were to become available via trade, what kind of offer would make sense for the Oilers?
Personally, I’m a big believer in elite talent; I believe the recent successes of Pittsburgh and Chicago reinforce the longstanding belief (going back at least as far as Conn Smythe) that the teams with great players are the teams that ultimately win. Depth matters, but championships are mostly determined by the guys at the top of the roster.
My view on this is reflected in what I said last year when Edmonton was rumoured to be interested in then-Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban. As much as it would have hurt to lose Leon Draisaitl in such a deal, it’s a lot of fun to imagine what the playoffs would have looked like for an Oilers team with Connor McDavid leading a top line, Taylor Hall anchoring a second and Subban in the No. 1 slot on defence. There’s no way of knowing whether that team would be better or worse than the club that was actually iced, but Subban was undeniably brilliant as a 25+ minute per game guy for the Predators in the postseason.
The Oilers would have some options if they were to try and add an elite defenceman at next year’s deadline. We can safely eliminate McDavid, and likely Draisaitl, from such a discussion. Components of a trade package might then include some combination of the following:
- a very good young player signed long-term (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the obvious candidate; one of Oscar Klefbom or Adam Larsson would qualify, too)
- a good young player under team control for a while (Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Ryan Strome, Zack Kassian)
- an emerging player (Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, Laurent Brossoit)
- prospects (Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones, etc.)
- draft picks (Edmonton is fully stocked for the next three years)
What would an elite defenceman from a rebuilding team command on the open market? It’s hard to say, but at this point a package including Nugent-Hopkins, Nurse and one of Puljujarvi or Yamamoto would seem like a bare minimum. The costs go up from there, and instead of increased volume the ask might be a more critical centerpiece than RNH.
If you were in the Oilers shoes, how high would you be willing to go? At what point would the ask be so rich that it would actually do more to set back rather than further Edmonton’s Stanley Cup hopes? Let us know in the comments section.